Denim Primer

Denim Primer


This is a Gillette sponsored article that offers quick and useful tips on buying better quality jeans. (Thanks Gillette!)

If you’re not naked and you’re not at work, you’re probably in jeans. When faced with pants mandatory situations, jeans are the go to solution for guys everywhere. Guys and denim go together like pop stars and breast implants or bacon and everything. Since you will undoubtedly be living in jeans, it only makes sense to get a quality pair. Spending more than $200 on anything that you can’t ride – especially clothes – is a lot easier in theory than it is in practice. The problem is a lack of education. With so many different variables – and a lack of resources – how can any man be expected to make an informed decision? We’re not going to call this the denim bible because if we did no one would read it. Consider it more a collection of helpful hints or a map to get you from boxers to a night out on the town.

Seams & Edges:

Selvage edges are not unique to denim and can be found in curtains, drapes, and just about every other type of fabric you don’t care about. The important part that you do need to know is how it’s made. Because of the continuous weaving of the cross thread the edge created won’t fray and is nearly indestructible. Creating this “self-edge” (most commonly white as you see above) requires an ancient shuttle loom. The final product that comes off the shuttle loom is much narrower so they have to use more to make your selvage/selvedge/self-edge (they all mean the same thing). Which of course means more money out of your pocket.

Bottom Line: Selvage denim is harder, better, faster, stronger.

Thread & Stitching:

The thread can be used to denote fabric type, vintage, or manufacturer. Originally it was a way for Cone Mills (one of the world’s largest producers of denim) to differentiate between fabrics produced for different manufacturers. Red was for Levi’s, yellow was for Wrangler, and green/blue were for Lee. Red-line remains the most popular, but thread color in and of itself is not indicative of quality. Pay attention to whether or not it’s reinforced at key stress areas (tops of the pockets and bottom of the belt loops – as in the picture above).

Back to Basics: In terms of color, whatever makes you warm and fuzzy on the inside. In terms of quality, make sure it’s reinforced and feels solid.


Can be anywhere from 12oz – 21oz and refers to the weight of one yard of fabric. One yard of 14oz denim weighs 14oz; one yard of 12oz denim weighs 12oz. You get the idea. The heavier the denim the less flexible it is. Heavier denim is going to take longer to break in and is going to last longer. The trade-off obviously being the fact that it’s stiffer and can make you slightly uncomfortable.

Need to know: 12 – 14oz is standard because it means durability, comfort, and you won’t feel like you’re roasting the boys. Try it on and see what you’re comfortable with.

Fit and Size:

Selvage denim stretches and will ultimately mold itself to you, creating a uniquely individual pair of jeans. Size up or down based on manufacturer recommendations (Google is your friend here). You also need to know if the denim is sanforized or un-sanforized. Sanforization a process used to reduce shrink that generally involves a one wash treatment. Sanforized jeans will shrink roughly 3% when washed and un-sanforized jeans will shrink roughly 10% (shrinkage varies by manufacturer and denim type). While all raw denim can stain lighter colored clothing, you run this risk more with un-sanforized options.

Super-size Me? Again, this is all preference. Sanforize and go with a more accurate measurement. Get un-sanforized and go with a more adjusted measurement. This is one time where math isn’t only ok, it’s encouraged. Measure twice, buy once.

Special thanks to Denim Debate for the images and fact-checking. Denim Debate is a collective of people just like you who are doing real world testing on high-end denim by wearing them non-stop and posting their findings. If you want to supplement your denim education, Denim Debate is the place to go.

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